As parents, we know that we can’t shelter our kids from each and every opportunity for failure. Sure, we want to, but we can’t. Nor should we. Sometimes, the best learning opportunities spring from failure.

Here are some of the benefits of letting your kids learn from failure

  • Kids learn that failure isn’t fatal.
  • Kids learn that you trust them to handle things well, even in failure.
  • Kids learn to sort out who is a genuine friend and who is not. (Hint: false friends flee from difficulties and potentially embarrassing situations.)
  • Kids learn how to recover from failure.
  • Kids learn to laugh at themselves and their mistakes, to take their errors in stride.
  • Kids thus strengthen their self-esteem, independence, and courage.
  • By becoming comfortable with reasonable risk of failure, kids broaden their horizons and increase their opportunities for success.
  • Kids also learn surprise lessons from failure. For example, if Janie tries to make her own lunch, and she puts chocolate syrup on her roast beef sandwich (here using the flow of logic that she likes both chocolate syrup and roast beef sandwiches, so why wouldn’t she like them together?), she probably will not like the chocolate/roast beef sandwich, but she will have an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson about combining flavors. When she gets older and cooks with greater frequency, the knowledge of what flavors work well together will help her become a better cook.

In sum, wise parents will let their kids risk failure when the risks are wisely calculated. (That calculation must include how likely the failure is, how damaging the failure would be, how quickly and/or easily the failure could be recovered from, and how advantageous the lesson learned would be.) Oh, and parents, don’t forget to celebrate the mini-successes that lie just under the surface of the failures (i.e., in the example above, the learning about flavor combinations).